Senior Drama Club: ‘The Tree House’

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Senior Drama Club: ‘The Tree House’

In early 2020, Speech and Drama teacher Adam Fresco approached the Baxter Family Trust for permission to create the first-ever stage production of James K. Baxter’s The Tree-House and Other Poems for Children.
 

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With their approval, Mr Fresco developed a unique family stage show, The Tree House, for the Senior Drama Club. Based on the famed Aotearoa New Zealand author’s poems and aimed at children, families, whanau and friends, the half-hour production was guaranteed to appeal to the child in us all.

Given the challenges of last year, it was necessary to postpone the show. However, Mr Fresco relaunched the production in 2021, with Senior Drama Club students meeting for lunchtime rehearsals to ensure their performances were polished and on point.

The Tree House celebrated its world premiere Monday 10th May and was a resounding success. Captivated by the bright and vibrant verses that thoroughly entertained younger audience members, the poetry’s themes evoked familiar childhood memories from those of a slightly older vintage.

Senior Drama Club member Eli Le Fevre was thrilled with the audience’s response.

“We got a lot of energy back from the audience, and it felt like they were incredibly engaged the whole time. The play is based on poems for children, so by nature, it is for young children. But the happiness and energy of children playing is something anyone can connect with and enjoy.”

Revelling in the opportunity to finally stage the production, the talented Year 11 actor enjoyed the “fun new experience” of playing a small child.

“The wild energy of that persona is something really unique, and bringing those classic poems to life was a wonderful challenge. Last year was a very difficult time for music and drama, and it is a relief and joy to get back to doing what I and the rest of the cast love. It’s such a fun show and to perform it for an audience was wonderful.”

In addition, Year 12 student Emily Grant provided a live musical accompaniment to give the show greater depth.

“I like to think that the music helped capture a certain atmosphere,” she explained. “The show was based around kids being kids, but the thing is… it’s a show. It’s overacted. It’s dramatic. It’s big. And I like to think that the music added a bit of a cartoonish element to that!”

Emily not only played the oboe throughout the performance but also wrote the music.

“There were no set pieces – I wrote them. Since the play was written by Mr Fresco for actors to perform, there wasn’t really any music planning. So, it resulted in me playing whatever fit the occasion, complete with some very unique noises, including squeaks and duck quacking sounds. I don’t typically get to use those noises in anything other than warming up!”

“I did write some sheet music for consistency, but most of what you would have heard in the show was either memorised or improvised. All in all, a very new experience.”

Further highlighting ACG participation across the school, the show was stage-managed by students Isabella Xia (Year 10) and Jiaxin Yan (Year 12), and Jamie Hanton (Year 10) created the production’s standout poster.

Says Mr Fresco, “I was very excited and delighted to be directing, producing and adapting these timeless poems for the stage. It featured our Senior Drama Club students in roles both on stage and behind the scenes, as performers, musicians, crew, lighting and sound operators, marketing team members, photographers, designers, artists and actors.”

 

From Baxter’s introduction to The Tree House and Other Poems for Children (1974)

I was working as a teacher at a school in the Hutt Valley. The ages of the children in my class ranged from 7 to 9… but there were ‘problems of control’… Some answers had to be found; and these jingles, rhymes, poems made to be spoken, were part of a possible answer. Thus, the poems were not only made for children… They had also to satisfy the demands of children, keep them moving, catch and hold their attention… If I had been following my own wishes, the poems might well have been…‘better poetry’, made in part to suit the adult critic in myself. But the children required direct speech, simple words, plain rhymes, and plenty of action. The themes sprang up in part from the children… and in part from my own memories of childhood. And when I looked at them again, it seemed to me that they might well be heard and read and learnt by other children… and that such a book might be more enlivening than a great deal of the solemn rubbish that passes as children’s verse.” – James K. Baxter

Don’t miss ACG’s next Senior Drama production, when Cambridge AS-Level Drama students perform Christopher Marlowe’s classic tale of the man who sold his soul to the Devil for knowledge and power, in Dr Faustus.

The performance will be held at the ACG Senior Campus in The Davis Theatre on Wednesday 30th June at 6pm. Director, Mr Fresco says all are welcome (aged 14 and over) to this free show, staged as part of students’ 2021 AS-Level Drama examination requirements.